Thanjavur – The Forgotten Cenotaphs

Raja Gori, also known as Kailasa Mahal, is a complex of Maratha era funerary temples in Thanjavur. Possibly the only one of its kind in Tamilandu. A place few outsiders visit and that even some local guides are unaware of.

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Thanjavur – Sublime Chola Heritage

I am not a temple goer.  I find the energy and fervour and the attendant din of a crowded temple distracting. Rare visits on special occasions are more nostalgic concessions to tradition, rather than opportunities for communion with God. But the vibe at each of the three temples that constitute the UNESCO inscribed ‘Great Living Chola Temple‘ ensemble was different. And visiting…

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Thanjavur – Reimagining Tamil Traditions At Svatma,

Loss of diversity, especially in the urban milieu, is inevitable in a globalised world. Pizza will often replace paniyaram. Or cappuccino, filter kaapi. But what does one do when one’s native cultural symbols begin to feel inadequate? Unsophisticated? The Subrahmaniam’s – Chennai based dancer/architect Krithika, and her developer husband, Sumant’s – response to their young son’s disenchantment with things Indian, was to find a way to reintroduce him…

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Grief, Pride & Hope In My Submerged City

Its been eerily silent this past week. I normally revel in the quiet of my neighbourhood, but this is the silence of devastation. Of a city knocked to its knees.  I miss the sounds I whined about. Of engines backfiring in the distance. Of the howling of strays or the keening of koels that shake me from my sleep at…

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The Clay Horses Of Ayyanar

Growing up in a small town joint-family with an incessant stream of visiting grand aunts and uncles fed my fascination for mythology, and left me with a fair knowledge of the Hindu pantheon and the stories they inhabit. But the blue skinned equestrian ‘God’ sticking out of the pile of polished antiques was unlike any I had seen before. His swarthy complexion had me mistaking…

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Chettinad – The Mansions Of Merchant Princes

Karaikudi, in the Southern Tamil hinterland, is a three hour bumpy ride from the nearest airport in Madurai*. There is no hint in the barren nondescript landscape of the immense wealth amassed by its renowned residents until we turn a sharp corner and come upon one crumbling mansion after another. Cloaked in neglect. Bereft of life. Sad sentinels to the affluence and…

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Bespoke Luxury at La Villa Pondicherry

An unassuming gate, that we drive past twice, opens into a small, leafy courtyard dominated by our restored 19th century ‘manor’ hotel: the former Villa Notre-Dame de la Garde, one time residence of the principal of the French school opposite. Now re-christened La Villa. We find the sparingly restored facade charming. We are relieved to discover, however, that the distressed charm ends at…

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Pondicherry – An Ersatz French Weekend

Travel had taken a backseat in our lives with the past several weeks being consumed by hospital visits and doctors appointments. Thankfully R is fully recovered from a minor surgical procedure, and a condition I was diagnosed with turned out to be less scary than it initially sounded, but they made for some awfully stressful moments. A final all…

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The Presence Of Absence

The Armenian church is in Georgetown, the chaotic trading quarter of Chennai that I don’t ordinarily frequent. The last time I ventured into the area was in search of a particular shade and texture of hand made paper for invites to my stone furniture sale! That, I am ashamed to admit, was over a decade ago. An exhibition to commemorate the Armenian…

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